EU Asylum Applications at 7-Year High

There are record numbers of people displaced globally, and we see that a consistent 10%, or around that figure, may seek protection in Europe,” Catherine Woollard, the director of the European Council of Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) NGO, told DW. “If we look at global displacement and the proportion of people who actually come to Europe, the numbers are not that high relative to what other countries and other regions of the world are managing.”

According to the EUAA’s figures, 43% of asylum applications in the European Union were approved in 2023.

If we also add in the number who get protection status under national law [not only international], that takes the figures well over 50%,” Woollard said. “So the majority of those coming are in need and have a legal right to protection in the EU.”

EU Asylum Overhaul
In December, EU member states and the European Parliament agreed to a major overhaul of the bloc’s asylum and migration laws.

The overhaul included provisions for faster vetting of irregular arrivals, the creation of border detention centers and quicker deportation for asylum-seekers whose requests have been rejected.

It also included a “solidarity mechanism,” whereby some asylum applicants would be transferred between EU member states and countries that refuse to take them in would make financial or material contributions to countries that do.

European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas called the agreement a “breakthrough,” but Hungary and Poland’s government at the time stringently opposed the deal.

We need to keep in mind that these reforms will only become enforceable as of 2026,” Neidhardt  said. “There is also a risk of overinflated expectations by the voters, that now we have these reforms, all the problems in relation to how migration has been dealt with in the past will be solved overnight.”

European Parliament Elections
The annual asylum figures were released as campaigning for June’s European Parliament elections has ramped up in earnest, with migration being a high priority for voters in many EU countries.

The most recent “Europe Elects” poll projects that the AfD will win 22 of Germany’s seats in the European Parliament in June, the second-highest total after the bloc of the Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union.

I fully expect far-right parties in Germany and elsewhere to use these [asylum] numbers to their advantage to push their agendas,” Neidhardt said.

The reality is also that mainstream parties — the center right, center left and liberals — have placed a huge bet on the migration reforms in the hope that they will convince their voters that they are dealing with how migration is managed,” he said. 

The AfD is campaigning on a promise to clamp down on the entry of migrants into the European Union and Germany.

The party’s counterparts in France, Austria, Italy and across the European Union are also hoping to make significant electoral gains. If far-right parties from different countries can put aside their differences and unite in the European Parliament, they could become a major force in EU lawmaking.

Jack Parrock is a freelance journalist, news correspondent, and presenter. This article was edited by M. Gagnon, and it is published courtesy of Deutsche Welle (DW).